The elimination of pit latrines at schools featured as a prominent objective when the Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented its annual performance plan in the National Council of Provinces. It planned to replace schools built with inappropriate materials, such as “mud schools,” through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI), with 50 being replaced this year, 17 in 2019-20, and 15 the following year. 286 schools would be provided with sanitation facilities through ASIDI, and 325 schools provided with water. However, the Department warned that budget cuts would have a serious affect on its ability to achieve all its objectives.
Highlights of the presentation were that 60 % of schools’ academic content, which included text books, had been digitized, and the Department aimed to have the entire curriculum content digitised by the end of this year; it was able to feed 9.2 million children every day, and in some schools, it had also started breakfast meals; it planned to improve on the number of “Second Chance Matric” learners obtaining subject passes towards the national senior certificate (NSC); it would be identifying and recruiting youths from all provinces for the Funza Lushaka Bursary annually in order to increase the supply of young teachers in the education system; and it would monitor the implementation of the National School Safety Framework (NSSF) in 185 “hot spot” schools by 2019/20, in order to attain safe, caring and violence-free school environments.
The budget allocated to the Department was R22.7 billion for 2018/2019, and the budget cuts mostly affected the infrastructure programme. Compared to 2017/18, there had been a cut of 2.4% for goods and services, but an increase of 5.9% for the compensation of employees.
During discussion by the Members, the Department was told that it could not continue to ignore the picture of the budget being reduced year after year while the salary component was also being increased year after year, because if it did, this would continue indefinitely and the DBE would exist only to pay its officials. Concern was expressed about the involvement of children during the community protests, as they were being used to commit incidents like the burning of schools. The Department needed to attend to the implementation of policies to improve the quality of education in rural areas. A suggestion that the private sector should assist where the government could not, was supported by the Department. Technology did not automatically produce the best results – it was the educators themselves. What plans were in place to develop the educators so that they produced good results?
Deputy Minister’s introductory remarks
Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister: Department of Basic Education (DBE), said the Department’s infrastructure programme had resulted in 23 schools being built, with 75 % of 87 schools almost completed.
The Department had resolved to eliminate pit latrines. Sanitation for Grade R was different from all the other ages, so therefore they would be taking the four and five-year-olds into consideration as well.
An enormous number of learners were migrating into Gauteng and Western Cape. Since last year, Gauteng had received approximately 60 000 unregistered learners for Grade 1 to Grade 8. Schools might have had adequate sanitation facilities, but for the increased enrolment.
The DBE had limited resources, and had to achieve more with less. 60 % of the academic content, which included text books, had been digitised. The Department aimed to have the entire curriculum content to digitised by the end of this year.
The Department was able to feed 9.2 million children every day. In some schools, it had also started breakfast meals, and was looking at partnering with some companies to make this even more available.
Department of Basic Education presentation
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director General (DG), DBE, said that unless the economy grew by 5 %, things were likely to be difficult, as provinces were already showing cracks from the budget pressure which had started to be put on them. Investment in education had been declining since 2010, so the ability of the Department to purchase materials like textbooks had been reduced. There had been a drift in the allocation of the budget, which he attributed to three reasons -- the Occupation Specific Dispensation introduced in 2008, the salary increases that had not been fully funded by the National Treasury, and lastly the budget cuts. The budget cuts had huge ramifications, especially in education, and would make it difficult to run the Department.
He compared the health and education sectors, and said that the health sector had overtaken the education sector for the first time. Although there was a need for money to be allocated to the health sector, education had its own obstacles and needed a better allocation.
Mr Paddy Padayachee Deputy Director General (DDG): Planning, Information and Assessment, DBE, said that the Department had demonstrated improvements in monitoring and evaluation to assist with addressing challenges related to performance. There were still challenges which were related to creating a conducive school environment and infrastructure in some parts of the country. Learner performance continued improving steadily, with improved support from the Department and relevant stakeholders. Looking at the national senior certificate performance (NSC) of the class of 2017, compared to 2016, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had had the most noticeable improvement -- 5.7 % and 6.4 % respectively -- compared to the other provinces.
The Department had been able to deliver between 94.3% and 98.3% of the language and mathematics workbooks for learners at all schools in Grades 1 to 9. Recommendations coming from the education lekgotla were to focus on African languages, social cohesion issues and an improvement in life orientation contact time. Other recommendations dealt with inclusive education, fostering partnerships and collaborations in the sector to improve reading and literacy, especially in the Foundation Phase, and aligning the DBE’s curriculum with the needs of industry and business.
Improvement plans of the Department related to the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and the National Development Plan (NDP) included strengthened engagements with the Auditor-General (AG) and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, as well as conducting a Gap analysis of the sector alignment, and working on mitigating the gaps identified for medium and long term plans.
The key MTSF priorities for the period 2014 to 2019 included improving the quality of teaching and learning through the development, supply and effective utilisation of teachers, and strengthening accountability and improving management at the school, community and district level.
The Department had responded to areas highlighted by the AG. These focused on the number of educators trained to implement sexual health programmes, work on national assessments -- focusing on the design, piloting and the main study planned for 2019/2020 -- and establishing whether there was adequate infrastructure in schools, in line with agreed norms and standards.
The objective of Programme One was to provide strategic leadership management and support services to the Department, and it was targeted to make payment to its service providers within 30 days, to resolve misconduct cases within 90 days, and grievance cases within 30 days.
The purpose of Programme Two was to develop curriculum and assessment policies, and monitor and support their implementation. The focus would be on how the Department provided off-line digital content packaged and distributed to provinces, with 15 schools targeted for the current 2018/2019 period. The target was to supply all public schools with home language work books for learners in Grade R, and in Grades 1 to 6, as well as in mathematics up to Grade 9. Other targets dealt with the monitoring of reading norms, the incremental introduction of African languages nationally, the Early Grade reading assessment, and various aspects related to the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). It was also planned to improve on the number of “Second Chance Matric” learners obtaining subject passes towards the NSC.
Programme Three’s purpose was to promote accountability, quality teaching and institutional performance through the effective supply, development and utilisation of human resources. Its strategic objective was to monitor the implementation of performance management systems in provincial education departments (PEDs) annually in order to strengthen the accountability of schools and office-based educators. A major focus was to monitor the basic functionality of schools and School Governing Bodies (SGBs) on an annual basis to improve school effectiveness and accountability. It also aimed to identify and recruit the youth from all provinces for the Funza Lushaka Bursary annually in order to increase the supply of young teachers in the education system.
The purpose of Programme Four was to promote quality and effective service delivery in the basic education systems through planning, implementation and assessment. The strategic objective was to provide data learner performance through the setting of papers, administering the examinations, and conducting data analysis and assessment of the national examinations periodically. In the area of basic infrastructure, it was planned to replace schools built with inappropriate materials through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI), with 50 being replaced this year, 17 in 2019-20, and 15 the following year. 286 schools would be provided with sanitation facilities through ASIDI, and 325 schools provided with water.
The purpose of Programme Five was to develop policies and programmes to improve the quality of learning in schools. It would be monitoring 110 schools for the provision of a nutritious meal. The DBE would also monitor the implementation of the National School Safety Framework (NSSF) in 185 “hot spot” schools by 2019/20 in order to attain safe, caring and violence-free school environments
Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DBE, said that the MTSF budget allocated to the Department was R22.7 billion for 2018/2019, R23.6 billion for 2019/2020, and R25.2 billion for 2020/2021. Due to the budget cuts, the budget allocated had been reduced by 2.9 %. The programme that was most affected was planning, quality assessment and monitoring and evaluation, and the main area which had been cut in that programme was the infrastructure. Comparing the allocations for 2017 to 2018, there had been a cut of 2.4% for goods and services, but an increase of 5.9% for the compensation of employees. and 2.45% for transfers and subsidies.
Earmarked funds for workbooks were 7.5% higher this year, while there was a 5.9% increase for examiners and moderators. However, there was a decrease of 5.9 % for the national school nutrition programme. There had been decreases in the Education Infrastructure Conditional Grant (1.3%) and the HIV/Aids Conditional Grant (0.8%), but the conditional grant for learners with profound intellectual disabilities conditional grant had increased by 157%.
Mr C Hattingh (DA) said that the Department started with the bad news -- the cutting of the budget – which was now a continuing trend. What concerned him was that even though the budget had been cut, the Department had wanted to preserve the salary component, and this was a now an established trend. People now lived in a technological world, so was it not time to start looking at efficiencies in relation to the employment total of the Department? The Department could not continue to ignore the picture of the budget being reduced year after year while the salary component was being increased year after year, because if they did, this would continue indefinitely and the Department would exist only to pay its officials.
He said the Committee could not just look at results and attribute them to good performance and success, because it had learnt over time that there was an unhealthy practice which had set in, where the performances of the provinces tended to look better after moderation, so they could not look at the results and assume good performance. He suggested that instead the Department ought to look at the learners at the beginning, middle and end of the year to see how they were performing.
Ms L Dlamini (ANC) extended her gratitude to the Deputy Minister and the DG on their exceptional leadership. The Committee had stabilised the Department, as there was now minimal protesting occurring. She felt there was better discipline. She worried about the involvement of children during the community protests, as they were being used to commit incidents like the burning of schools. She did not know how best one can try to protect the children from being part of that. She referred to the sanitation issue at schools, and said that during one of her site visits, she had seen the boy’s toilets and what she had encountered was disheartening, as they had been below standard. She appealed to the Deputy Minister to employ some technology to deal with this situation at schools. Grade R needed a different type of toilet, so she asked if at least one per school could be budgeted for. She asked why all the provinces had been declining, including her province (Mpumalanga), and said the Department needed to pay more attention into it. She asked what the problem was for the learners who registered to sit for examinations, but ended up not writing.
What was the difference in expense between the textbooks and laptops? Could one not adopt this new technology and move to on-line books rather than the hard copy text books? She asked about the budget for sports, and if the Department were to employ teachers for sports, where the budget for it was.
Mr M Khawula (IFP) asked about digital content distribution. Who was monitoring its utilization, especially in rural provinces, and how was it being monitored? He commented that the Department needed to attend to the implementation of policies to improve the quality of education in rural areas. He asked about the equitable redistribution of teachers, and if it was a case of “one shoe fits all” for urban and rural areas, did this work? There had been many issues arising in this regard, and at times there had been instances where it had been considered that some rural schools should be shut down. On the other hand, the Department should shut down schools where money was being wasted, but the issue was that factors in the rural areas sometimes did not allow for those schools to be closed. With the ASIDI, were there any rollover funds for 2018, and if so why, because money needed to be spent out there. He asked for a provincial break down with regard to the infrastructure grant, to establish what had been spent in the different provinces?
Mr Joe Mpisi (ANC), Chairman: Education Portfolio Committee, Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL), part of the Gauteng delegation attending the meeting, commented that he agreed with Ms Dlamini that the issue of ablution facilities was a worrying matter. There were a number of new schools going to be built, and he asked how many there were going to be per province. What was the Department going to do with regard to the cutting of the budget, about building schools and facilities for learners with disabilities? He commented on the teachers’ union issue, and said the union should be there to assist the government. The relationship should be seen as how one engaged with the union to make the situation better. He asked why other provinces had not started rolling out and introducing the adoption of information communication technology (ICT), like the Free State Province. He asked how the infrastructure grant was going to be allocated.
Mr Nkhumeni Ramulifho (DA) (GPL) said that when there was a decrease in the infrastructure grant, was this not a way of saying to the Department that it needed to do more with less? This was because in most cases, there was money which was not spent returned to the National Treasury. Could the private sector not come in and fill the gap where the government could not? Policies should be tightened to look at how schools used the money that was not coming from the government so that the Department did not allocate funds to the same schools for the same use when they had already benefited from the private sector.
Ms Catherine Dzimba (EFF) (GPL) asked what the definition of rural schooling was, because that would explain who would benefit from the rural education assistance program. She expressed concern at the role out of ICT, saying that technology did not automatically produce the best results – it was the educators themselves. What plans were in place to develop the educators so that they produced good results?
The Chairperson commented that she was disheartened by the fact that there had been a directive from the President, and he was expecting the Department to look into and attend to the sanitation issue. However, at the same time the infrastructure budget did address that directive because of the budget cut. There was a lack of consistency in this regard, and maybe this issue whould be considered at a different forum.
Department of Basic Education’s response
Deputy Minister Surve said that ideally not more than 85 % of the budget should be spent on personnel so that there was still room for funds to be allocated to other resources, like infrastructure, teacher development and text books. However, some provinces spent 87 % to 89 % of their budget on personnel, and therefore put a range of other activities at a margin as a result of over-expenditure. KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape had been receiving support from the national Department.
With regard to the sanitation issue, the manner in which the Department approached it was firstly by looking at whether the toilets were age appropriate. There were about one million Grade R learners, and this would double with the rolling out of Grade RRR. Therefore one could not ignore that cohort and look at the elimination of pit latrine toilets without looking at age appropriateness. When the Department reported to the President, they reported on age appropriate toilets and on adequate toilets. True to the demands of education, sometimes schools ended up taking more learners that they ought to, and this resulted in surpassing the one seat per 25 learners target.
The Department had not had any reports of delays or inadequate supply of textbooks. The difficulty was the procurement of textbooks, and that was not the responsibility of the national Department. The provinces needed to agree to a central procurement process as the norm, which was at a discussion stage with Treasury, because once that was done there would be a reduction in the price per unit of 400%.
The Western Cape and Gauteng had an advantage when it came to the issue of technology. They had had started some time back and had learnt some valuable lessons in trying to get the system right, and this had improved their capacity to provide for ICT. Currently, 64 % of schools were connected for teaching and learning through ICT. The Department’s vision was that every child, especially the rural child, must have the benefit of ICT.
He agreed with Ms Dzimba and said that ICT should not replace the basics, and there should be an ability to integrate ICT into the curriculum. Educators must be the facilitators of learning, and must be able to utilise ICT. At the same time, there was evidence that the ten best performing districts in the Free State and Gauteng were data driven. They were able to make interventions as a result of data, and that had improved and enhanced efficiency.
Mr Mweli said that the DBE had been trying to break down the information to give a provincial perspective for the benefit of this Committee, being part of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), and said that the information presented had been in a different to that done from the National Assembly’s portfolio committee. However, the Department would try to improve on that next time, as it had not done so adequately enough.
He said he was sure that the definition of ‘rural education’ would encapsulate the rurality of Gauteng.
The responsibility for rolling out infrastructure should be catered for in the equitable share. The grants were intended to be used over a certain period of time, and ceased when the work was done. If one looked at the evolution of the grants, they were to provide support to provinces and there were only three provinces out of the nine which were still being allocated funds, and this was even less than 3 %. The DBE had taken over the responsibility of the national Government to support the provinces, and this was dangerous. The Constitution did not provide for that, so the anomaly had to be corrected.
He appreciated hearing about the standards of learning in other countries, but more often than not, when there was talk about quality of education -- especially in South Africa -- there was reference to the infrastructure. However, infrastructure was an enabler and not a determinant and indicator of education performance.
There was no way that the Department could do its work without the involvement of private sector stakeholders. He might have been taken out of context, because there was no fear about associating with the private sector. He was only indicating that the bulk of the business of the Department of Education should be run by the Government, but working together with the private sector was indeed very crucial. The costs of infrastructure provided by the private sector was cheaper, compared to the government sector.
There had been over-expenditure already for ASIDI in the 2018/19financial year, maybe because for the previous two years the Department had been under-spending. The level of spending had not been the rationale for the reduction, but it should be about how the economy was performing and how the government was allocating funds.
With regard to the use of children in protests, he was appealing to the public to help the Department because 99 % of the protests had nothing to do with education.
He also concurred with Ms Dzimba that technology was a ‘propeller’ in education. It could not teach on behalf of a bad teacher, but would enable a good teacher to excel and allow the Department to reach out better to learners.
The DBE in the past had actually got more than it had bargained for with the unions. They had signed agreements of important resolutions which had enforced the development of job descriptions and work plans.
The Chairperson extended her gratitude to Mr Mpisi and his Gauteng delegation, and thanked them for their valuable input into the discussion.
The meeting was adjourned
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